Celebrity Web site under fire for privacy breaches

Footballer's solicitor demands site takes down address

Controversial UK Web site www.192.com stands accused of endangering top Premiership football players and their families by publishing their addresses and even maps of their homes.

I-CD Publishing, the company behind the Web site, was contacted this week by star midfielder David Beckham's solicitor who demanded that his details be removed. The details of many more footballers and other celebrities remain available.

The site lists the names and addresses of more than 45 million people from the electoral register. It also holds company records and aerial maps of the UK. Under UK data protection guidelines, it must take down the details of anyone who asks to be removed. A spokeswoman for the company says however, that it will take a couple of weeks to have Beckham's details taken off the site.

Alan Edwards, who manages David Beckham, one of the UK's highest-paid footballers, has issued a statement attacking the Web site for endangering Beckham and his family.

The I-CD spokeswoman accuses Edwards himself of drawing unnecessary attention to the situation. "If he had just filled in the form [Beckham's address] would have been removed. It is not the correct course of action," she says.

Privacy advocates accuse I-CD of ignoring privacy of ordinary members of the public by offering their personal details online. "The whole Web site is a disaster for privacy," says Simon Davies director of Privacy International. "If this organisation wishes to be ethical, it should shut down and go on a long holiday."

I-CD claims to work closely with the police to ensure that no one is placed at risk by its service. Davies argues that there nevertheless remains a danger to making this information available and says it is not enough to offer an opt-out service, because most people will not be aware of it. "

This technology is too dangerous," he says. "These people are all too willing to acknowledge that there is a threat to celebrities and people with power, but not to ordinary individuals. Once you acknowledge there is a threat to one person, you have to acknowledge there is a general threat."

This is not the first time I-CD has come under fire from privacy campaigners. Last year the company was attacked for releasing a comprehensive CD database containing names and addresses of people in the UK. The company was nominated by UK civil rights organisations for a Big Brother Award for its allegedly intrusive practises in December last year.

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